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Bellator’s Spike launch & its meaning for California’s 2013 business climate

By Zach Arnold | January 10, 2013

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When Bellator Sport Worldwide LLC has their Spike TV card on January 17th in Irvine, California at the Bren Events Center, there will be a lot of important eyeballs in state politics paying close attention to how well the event does.

Bellator’s 2013 event scheduling calendar makes it clear that California will be a geographical cornerstone for the company, which is news that Sacramento is happy to hear. It means a second MMA player besides the UFC for revenue for a state athletic commission that Andy Foster is trying to rebuild in a big way.

The January 17th show will be important symbolism on multiple levels. On a regulatory level, expect to see some big names working the show (such as Big John McCarthy and Gene LeBell). LeBell, who has not been booked often by Che Guevara, will see a significant increase in profile under Andy Foster’s watch. That’s a good thing. New blood on the judging, officiating, and inspecting level is coming. One promoter, on background, claims that there will be an emphasis in the future to book officials who have actual in-ring fighting experience. The philosophical change will certainly be different than business as usual.

The Bellator 1/17 main card looks like this:

The success of the Bellator shows in 2013 is a big deal for CSAC. When it comes to revenue from big boxing & MMA events, the revenue is capped at $100,000 per show for the commission. So, CSAC has a real interest in seeing mid-sized promoters do well in the state. The UFC show on 2/23 in Anaheim (Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche) is drawing lukewarm business. One Sacramento source says that the numbers UFC is doing for their show advance are to be expected because of a few reasons: 1) California remains a boxing-first, MMA-second state in terms of fan preference; 2) there’s a lot of MMA shows in California which means that you can sell a fair amount of tickets but not draw as big of gates because your price point has to be lower; 3) the majority of the activity is in Southern California, meaning that the Northern California shows often get second-tier fights as opposed to the major money bouts.

What happens behind-the-scenes at the Bellator show on a CSAC level will give everyone an indication of where things are heading for 2013 politically… and the politics are hot-and-heavy right now in Sacramento.

Picking sides

Multiple sources report that Che Guevara has been on a 30-day leave since last December. These same sources indicate that much of the booking sheets for January & February events are ‘incomplete’ and have many gaps for booking assignments. However, some regular names do appear on the booking sheets. One name that is drawing fire in certain CSAC quarters is the name of Rose Saavedra, a person who works in the office of Dr. Richard Gluckman. Dr. Gluckman is considered a one-stop-shop doctor for fighters looking to get medical tests done so that they can be cleared to fight in the state. The complaints being voiced about Saavedra getting booked as a show inspector has to do with potential conflict-of-interest issues since the inspectors are in charge of the health & safety of fighters. If a person close to a well-known doctor who is doing the medical testing of fighters is acting an inspector, you can understand why there is some scrutiny & concern being voiced.

The future of Che Guevara remains the key question for California combat sports in 2013. Up until now, he has been well-protected and insulated in Sacramento at the Department of Consumer Affairs. This is a man who got his job after DCA chased out Dean Lohuis in a disgusting manner. It was Che Guevara, not Dean Lohuis, who screwed up on the illegal hand-wraps that Antonio Margarito got caught having before his 2009 Staples Center fight against Shane Mosley. And, yet, DCA & the AG’s office (Karen Chappelle) put Che in a position to become the Chief Athletic Inspector. One tool used by DCA against Lohuis in order to establish a power structure of Che Guevara & Bill Douglas was the usage of their internal DOI (Department of Investigation). DOI is DCA’s group of wannabe police officers who don’t legally have the same powers as a typical policeman. However, they are the ones who frequently confiscate computer equipment whenever they want to investigate or pressure someone. DCA is loaded with investigators making over $70,000 a year. They’re stooges. Henchmen. Call them whatever you want.

We mention DOI because multiple sources with knowledge of CSAC affairs has indicated to us that DCA is using DOI to conduct an ass-covering general investigation regarding the way business is being conducted with CSAC. Given DOI’s past behavior and their tactics with individuals like Dean Lohuis, it is interesting to note that individuals who have been questioned by DOI or will be questioned by DOI are advised to have a lawyer present in order to prevent DOI’s Barney Fifes from pulling any stunts which have a whiff of police power.

In the past, we have asked the question as to why so many big wigs in CADEM (the California Democratic Party) are so interested in what is happening with CSAC. It just makes no sense. The state is drowning in billions of dollars of debt and yet CSAC remains a sacred cow to them politically in terms of control & manipulation. While we still don’t have a clear answer as to what the $ motives are, what we are finding out through various document dumps is that the names of individuals involved is extensive & deep in Governor Jerry Brown’s political circle.

According to a September 20th, 2012 letter sent by former CSAC member Mike Munoz to Governor Brown’s office, Munoz spelled out how he and others were not re-appointed to CSAC because they didn’t vote to fire George Dodd at the infamous El Monte, California meeting last June. Munoz named Nettie Sabelhaus as Governor Brown’s political fixer that told him to fire Dodd if he wanted the California state Senate (turf of Darrell Steinberg) to confirm his CSAC appointment. Munoz didn’t vote to fire Dodd and as a result was jettisoned out of CSAC, along with politician-wannabe Linda Forster and Mark Burnett lawyer Brian Edwards.

Nettie Sabelhaus is an important name to surface. She worked for Darrell Steinberg’s Rules committee at the Capitol. Jerry Brown appointed Sacramento lifer Denise Brown to the top of Consumer Affairs. In order to protect Brown’s appointment at DCA, she had to get confirmed in the state Senate. Getting George Dodd, DCA’s whipping boy, out of CSAC was a way to ensure confirmation. Steinberg and Gov. Brown do not always see eye-to-eye, but Brown having a lifetime California fixer like Sabelhaus (who is close to Steinberg) was a way for him to protect Denise Brown and allow DB to appoint her own person to CSAC. In the past, I’ve remarked that you don’t survive Sacramento politics like Denise Brown has since the days of Jimmy Carter unless you are ruthless and know how to have the right connections. We now know the names of who was involved on DCA’s side of the civil war against CSAC.

What about the sunset?

There are some important names in the CADEM power circle who are interested in sunsetting CSAC. However, the safe money appears to be that the Senate’s Business & Professions committee will grant CSAC a continuance since Denise Brown got her man (Andy Foster) appointed.

What makes this scenario fascinating is that there will be some whipping boys at the public hearings. Someone will be scapegoated and excoriated. Will it be Che Guevara? One Capitol source indicates to us that the April hearing will more or less be a cover to push the fraudulent findings from the Bureau of State Audits which claimed that the state never had to pay full-time state employees time-and-a-half pay when working as athletic inspectors. That, of course, is false. The state has to pay full-time state employees time-and-a-half because it’s the law. They can come up with their own legal interpretations and memos, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re too lazy to change the laws and get into a political fight with unions in the state. We mention this situation because a source with knowledge of union affairs has indicated to us that both Federal and state union leaders are now aware of the BSA’s fraudulent findings and are considering putting up a fight on behalf of the inspectors.

The real issue with CSAC’s budget blowing up had to do with the way Che Guevara booked his closest friends & political allies, giving certain individuals inspector gigs where they traveled more than 50 miles to a show. That results in a $18 meal voucher and a hotel room for each show worked. Plus there are the inspectors who want to be featured prominently on television as if they are big stars. Throw in the stories about wet bars for Lemoore shows and DCA management renting Cadillac Escalades to go to a commission meeting and you can pretty much see why things became a total fiasco.

So, you have the exorbitant travel costs. Throw in the fact that most of the inspectors Che favored couldn’t do a box office correctly and you ended up with Sacramento losing up to 7-figures over the last few years in missing revenue.

Topics: Bellator, CSAC, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 15 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

15 Responses to “Bellator’s Spike launch & its meaning for California’s 2013 business climate”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Will Bellator’s gates be big enough to really have an impact in any states they run events in?

    And they typically do about 28 cards per year. I don’t see them coming to California more then 4 times (if that), and I wouldn’t be shocked if they go to an Indian Reservation for at least one of them.

    Hey Zach,

    What is your opinion on this Bellator/Alvarez fiasco?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      As far as I know, they are commission-regulated for the Indian shows. That could change this year, but I haven’t heard much on that front.

      Bellator/Alvarez – Eddie’s in the right here. UFC was going to do what was UFC was going to do. I think at this point Bellator would be overpaying to try to keep him. I am surprised by the reports of an ‘immediate’ UFC title shot.

      That said, anyone who thinks this will stop fighters from signing Bellator deals with options is crazy. Ben Henderson’s Twitter comment said it all.


      Palhares busted for testosterone levels. So, let’s get this straight – UFC drug test suspension of 9 months for elevated levels, but they’ll give you a hall pass if you want to use testosterone beforehand. Got it. Joey Beltran with nandrolone bust as well.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Henderson will get paid more with his next contract and it won’t be an issue. The guy couldn’t even draw 200,000 viewers for his rematch with Edgar… Which is why he was on FOX last time. He will need time to be built up if he is sticking around as champion.

        Based on the quality of the tournaments last season…. And the quality of the LHW & WW Tournaments announced so far this season…. I would say that their past actions of suing fighters and making it hard for them to go over to the UFC has already stopped most major camps from sending over any sort of reasonable prospects to Bellator. And they don’t have the luxury of loyal camps like Strikeforce did with AKA and Gracie’s teams.

        Bellator getting high quality guys early in their careers like Konrad or Askren doesn’t seem to be repeating itself anymore.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        And I believe that Zuffa wanted Bellator to sign Eddie Alvarez back. If they didn’t, they would have just changed up the contract slightly in order to force their hand.

        Just like with Dan Henderson going to Strikeforce…. It benefits Zuffa much more if their competitors take on bigger contracts for their top fighters. It makes the wiggle room they have that much less and puts more pressure on the entire company.

        Eddie Alvarez doesn’t do much for the UFC. But paying him out over $1 Million over a few years…. And you do that with 5 or 6 fighters…. And all of a sudden Bellator is in a position that the ratings need to be really good or they are going under.

    • Chris says:

      Bellator just seems shady, I can only remember one fighter payout and that was for Eddie/aoki.

      I’ve never seen attendance or gate numbers for any event, never seen anything about a single Bellator fighter testing positive or even being tested.

      If they are using commissions why arent these things being released? I know not every UFC event has pay etc released but even international events they do their own testing and they release the info.

      Is that gonna change with Bellator now? Are we gonna see pay, gate, testing results?

      Also I cant see Bellators gate being much at all, especially with the move to Thus it seems to be about the TV ratings first and then worry about ticket sales when they get established on Spike and can move to a different night.

      I see online they are trying to give away tickets to anyone who wants them because nobody is buying tickets.

    • Chuck says:

      Clicker beware. is known for it’s ten billion or so pop-ups and links that lead to phishing and malicious code. I totally forgot about that and went on the website. Man it’s slow loading because of all the banner ads. I didn’t get anything (thank God) but that’s because I am not stupid as to click on random links. And my pop-up blocker via Mozilla was up to snuff (blocked all pop-ups). Just beware going on there.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    I think over the next 2 or so years…. SpikeTV is going to throw a bunch of stuff (combat sports) against the wall and see what sticks.

    They will have TNA, Bellator, Glory, & I believe they are bringing some boxing to their station. It is basically going to be a giant 2nd tier sports programming channel.

    I just don’t know if those are the types of things that will get the channel the numbers is needs. It is obvious that this channel has never really ever found true success. It seems like every few years they are completely changing over their format. They have gone from The Nashville Network…. To The National Network…. To SpikeTV with the WWE…. To SpikeTV with the UFC….. Now to SpikeTV with a bunch of minor league promotions….

    It won’t last long. If this was a truly viable business option…. ESPN, FOX, or NBC would have adopted it a long time ago. My guess is that most of it sinks and then they change their format again by 2015…

    • edub says:

      “To SpikeTV with the WWE…. To SpikeTV with the UFC….. Now to SpikeTV with a bunch of minor league promotions….”

      None of that is changing its format.

  3. The Judge says:

    Bellator enters 2013 in an enviable situation: the only real alternative to UFC in US, and with a brand new TV sponsor. It doesn’t matter what they offer in that case, there will probably always be enough fighters on the outs with UFC for one reason or another to enable them (Bellator) to have a card of established, known fighters. And, the tournament has just the right length and format for somebody to rebound back to the UFC. Or they lose and Bellator star who beats them goes up in the ranks.

    • Chris says:

      Thats not true, Bellator contracts are done so if you win a tournament, win a title or even if you are just in a tournament final your contract extends 3 fights or 18 months.

      So no fighter can go to Bellator, win a tournament real quick and then bounce to the UFC.

      First Bellator normally signs multiple year deals and if you do well the contract extends.

      What Bellator mostly does is sign prospects, guys who are broke and they dangle 100k and a title shot in front of them so the fighter signs, they dont think about down the road when they might want to leave for the UFC and they cant.

      Also guys who the UFC wants no part of. If its a big name free agent they really will only go to Bellator if teh UFC dont want them.

      • The Judge says:

        First of all thank you–important yet below the surface information, like how companies tend to structure their contracts is something that really helps.
        Perhaps then this is way and time for Bellator to restructure its terms. People would be a lot more willing to go to Bellator if any success didn’t automatically mean a long-term commitment. Considering how hard for Bellator in its current format to keep top competition happy (“The champ is out, so you are going to have to wait…uh…another half-year”) it might be wise to go for a high rotation-type format rather than try to keep the same couple of stars around long-term.
        “Also guys who the UFC wants no part of. If its a big name free agent they really will only go to Bellator if teh UFC dont want them.”
        I thought that’s what I said no? Plus guys who want no part of UFC, contract disputes, past issues, just wanting something else, etc… There aren’t really a lot of those guys to keep several promotions going. But there are certainly enough to make one promotion happen. The pool of “desperate for 100K” guys, plus foreign prospects UFC for whatever reason has not grabbed is being broadened by no UFC stars, like Lawal, Sobral (sorry, I know those are Strikeforce guys, but nobody else comes to mind off the top of my head, plus those are also definitely the kind of guys I mean)

  4. Light23 says:

    Is nobody talking about Lloyd Irvin? I thought that would be the kind of thing Zach would be all over.

    For those who don’t know, two of his students are involved in an alleged rape case, where the whole thing was apparently caught on tape by a security camera.

    In addition to this, newspaper articles surfaced from 1990 about a gang rape case involving a “Lloyd E. Irvin Jr”. The BJJ Lloyd Irvin’s middle name begins with E, he went to the same university as the guy mentioned in the newspaper story, and they were both the same age.

    So basically it looks like they’re almost definitely the same guy, unless two guys with the name “Lloyd E. Irvin Jr” happened to go to the same college and were the same age.

    Five of the six guys involved in the case were convicted of rape, but the only reason Irvin was apparently acquitted, was due to the fact he couldn’t get it up when he attempted to join in. No penetration = no rape.

    Lloyd Irvin Jr happens to run rape prevention seminars, and is holding one in February.

    When this story broke yesterday on Bloody Elbow, Irvin registered “” which serves as promotional material for his rape prevention seminars.

    However, it could be that he’s trying to mess with search engine results, so that people get that website when they search “lloyd irvin rape”.

    He’s been asked for comment many times, but hasn’t responded, and is deleting any comments about it on his facebook page.

  5. […] push to firm up its number two position in the MMA organization food chain. Here’s Zach Arnold of FightOpinion with a very good break down of what that all means for the beleaguered Golden […]


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